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Yvonne Atkinson Gates

Political leader Yvonne Atkinson Gates was born on June 10, 1956 in Henderson, Nevada to Bobbie Davis Atkinson and Eddie Atkinson. Gates graduated from Ed W. Clark High School in Las Vegas and went on to earn her B.S. degree in political science and journalism in 1979, her M.P.A. degree in 1982, and her Ph.D. degree in public administration in 2012, all from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Following her graduation from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Gates worked as the research and planning manager for Clark County’s Department of Social Service, as well as personnel manager for Clark County’s Department of Aviation. From 1985 to 1992, Gates served on the Clark County School District Board of Trustees in Las Vegas. In 1992, Gates was elected as the youngest and only minority member to serve on the Clark County Board of Commissioners for District D in Las Vegas, becoming its first African American female chair in 1995. She was chosen as a super-delegate for the Democratic National Committee; and, in 2002, she chaired the Democratic National Committee Black Caucus. As chairwoman, she worked with black female elected officials like Donna Brazile and Minyon Moore to found the Women Building for the Future Political Action Committee. Throughout her political career, Gates advocated for strengthening public education and daycare programs nationwide. After resigning from the Clark County Board of Commissioners in 2007, Gates was appointed by Senator Harry Reid to serve as a Democratic National Committee super-delegate in 2008 for Hillary Rodham Clinton, although Gates later shifted her support to Barack Obama. In addition to her political career, Gates founded the construction firm of ECO Construction LLC in Las Vegas.

Gates was a recipient of the Community Image Award from the Professional Black Women Alliance in 1989, and a recipient of the Community Service Award from the Westcoast Black Publisher's Association in 1990. In recognition of her public service, the Clark County Board of School Trustees opened the Yvonne Atkinson Gates Center in 1996. In 1997, Gates was named Outstanding Democrat of the Year by the Democratic Party of Nevada. In 2002, she received an Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the DNC Women's Vote Center; and in 2006, she received a human rights award from Church Women United.

Gates and her husband, former Judge Lee Gates, have four children.

Yvonne Atkinson Gates was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 25, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.061

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/25/2016

Last Name

Gates

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Atkinson

Occupation
Schools

Madison Elementary School

William E. Orr Middle School

Ed W. Clark High School

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

First Name

Yvonne

Birth City, State, Country

Henderson

HM ID

GAT05

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Nevada

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere on the Water

Favorite Quote

The Greatest Achievement Requires Time.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Colorado

Birth Date

6/10/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Denver

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Political leader Yvonne Atkinson Gates (1956 - ) represented District D on the Clark County Board of Commissioners, where she was the first African American woman to serve as chair.

Employment

ECO Construction, LLC

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Clark County, Nevada

City of Las Vegas

State of Nevada

Favorite Color

Blue, Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Yvonne Atkinson Gates' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers segregation in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her likeness to her parents and paternal aunt

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her father's work as a brick mason

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her neighborhood on the Westside of Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her early education in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls her early experiences of religion

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers Ed W. Clark High School in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls her athletic involvement in high school

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers building a homecoming float

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers a student demonstration at Ed W. Clark High School

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about the casino industry in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls her start at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her experiences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about the Runnin' Rebels basketball team

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers her professors at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her early political activities

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers her early employment with the City of Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about the growth of Clark County, Nevada

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her early employment with Clark County, Nevada

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls her appointment to the Clark County Board of School Trustees

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her work on the Clark County Board of School Trustees

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes the jurisdiction of Clark County, Nevada

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls her decision to run for the Clark County Board of Commissioners

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers the riots of 1992 in West Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her husband's career

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls joining the Clark County Board of Commissioners

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about the authority of the Clark County Board of Commissioners, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about the authority of the Clark County Board of Commissioners, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers the congressional representatives for the State of Nevada

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her advocacy for early childhood education centers

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers campaigning for President Bill Clinton

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her divestiture from Fat Tuesdays

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers the gubernatorial campaign of Joe Neal

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls speaking to the Democratic National Committee in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her work at the McCarran International Airport in Paradise, Nevada

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates reflects upon the presidential election of 2000

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about chairing the Democratic National Committee Black Caucus

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about the population growth in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls the conviction of four Clark County commissioners for corruption

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers the presidential election of 2004

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls her decision to leave the Clark County Board of Commissioners

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates recalls becoming a Democratic National Committee superdelegate

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates reflects upon Barack Obama's first presidential campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her retirement

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about the legalization of marijuana

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about superdelegate reform in the Democratic National Committee

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her support for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her family and community

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her chairmanship of the Clark County Board of Commissioners

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Yvonne Atkinson Gates reflects upon her legacy and how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

16$11

DATitle
Yvonne Atkinson Gates remembers a student demonstration at Ed W. Clark High School
Yvonne Atkinson Gates talks about her divestiture from Fat Tuesdays
Transcript
You mentioned earlier, and I didn't ask you what happened, but you said the black organization had demonstrated--$$Yes, we did (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) at the school [Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, Nevada]. What was the issue?$$We had a walk out (laughter) because we didn't think that African American kids were being treated fairly; and at the time, Brian Cram was the principal, and I was an officer, and we had a walk out, but he was able to calm everyone down, and, you know, kids came back, back into the school, but we, you know, we really voiced our opinion when we felt that something wasn't right.$$Okay. So did, did things change at the school as a result of the walk out in the?$$I would, I would say, yes, because--and, and Dr. Cram, at the time was really--he was more of a people person, so he was able to calm the kids down. We had meetings and discussions and so forth, and things improved a great deal. But we had students who were really active and wanted to make sure that the treatment of African Americans was fair and we received the same as other students.$$Okay. You--do you have any stories about discrimination at the school that--I mean, or a personal story about it?$$No. Actually, actually, I never really experienced, experienced that so much, but I do recall a conversation with one of my--he was the president of the, of the--of my class. I remember having a conversation. We had a conversation one day, and it really struck me as very--it, it touched a nerve. Let's put it that way. And he lived in a neighborhood that I later purchased a home as an adult in, and he said to me that the reason that they did not want blacks to live in their neighborhood was because if a black moved--a black person, a black family moved in a white neighborhood, then it would decrease the value of their property because African Americans didn't take care of their homes and their property the way in which they did. And I--you know, I never forgot that, and later as an adult, I purchased a home in that very same neighborhood, and I remember it vividly.$$Okay, okay. Now, did, did they have--did everybody go to the same prom?$$Yes. We all went to the same prom.$$Okay.$$There was no segregation in that respect; and blacks and white actually got along pretty well at the school when I was growing up.$$Okay, okay.$$Never--you know, no tension or anything of that nature. But there were times, as I said, when, you know, we felt that we weren't being treated fairly and equally, and, and we had the one walk out, sit-in.$In 1997, there's something that--there's some kind of scandal around Fat Tuesdays or something?$$(Laughter).$$What is that about?$$At the time, I was--I, I wasn't--I was a--start- well, I was working with a friend of mine to open a business, and we were talking about Fat Tuesdays. Hadn't been opened at that time, and we were just right in the process of doing it, but we weren't, we weren't open. We weren't--hadn't created the company, or we were doing our due diligence, and, you know, a few people didn't want me to have any connection to the business, and so I just stepped to the side and let my friends go ahead, and they actually got the business open. I wasn't a part of it. I abstained because they were friends of mine because they had to come to the county commission [Clark County Board of Commissioners] to get approved, and that was the extent of it.$$There's a couple questions on this. Now to what extent does being on the county commission handcuff you from being involved in--$$Well--$$--regular business?$$--you can be involved in business. You can be involved in business, and many of my commissioners were. You know, Paul Christensen owned Christensen Jewelers [M.J. Christensen Jewelers; M.J. Christensen Diamonds, Las Vegas, Nevada]. He was on the county commission, but there was different standards for African Americans than there were for whites. I--they, you know, just didn't want me to be involved, and especially when some of the locations were in casinos and so forth. I could have abstained but never had the opportunity to do that because it never came before us. I divested myself and wasn't involved, and--but I still abstained. So you can do that, and long as you abstain, there is no ethical conflict.$$Okay.$$And so I--of course I never got that far, didn't get that far.